Presidents of International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice Present Annual Reports to General Assembly

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 26 Oct 2011 View Original

GA/11163

Sixty-sixth General Assembly
Plenary
43rd & 44th Meetings (AM & PM)

World Court Chief Welcomes Body’s Role as ‘Guarantor of International Law’, Criminal Court President Likens Rome Statute to ‘Brick Wall’ against Grave Crimes

The Presidents of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court today implored General Assembly delegates to honour the Courts’ jurisdictions, and respectively, rely on international law to resolve disputes between States, and “stand united” behind collective efforts to suppress the gravest crimes known to humanity.

“In these times of unprecedented interconnection between States and peoples, it is my sincere belief that a firm reliance on international law must underpin any and all future developments on the global stage,” said Hisashi Owada, President of the International Court of Justice, as he presented that body’s annual report. He was joined in the debate by Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court, who said that each time a nation joined that tribunal’s founding Rome Statute another brink was added to the wall that would protect future generations from “terrible atrocities”.

In his wide-ranging address, Judge Owada said the International Court of Justice — often called the “ World Court” — as the “guardian of international law”, was proud to play a vital role in an increasingly globalized world. Driving home that point, he said that, over the past year, the Court had rendered four judgements and three orders involving States from all regions of the world and raising a wide range of legal questions.

The judgements, he continued, concerned alleged human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the application of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the Russian Federation, and requests for intervention in a case of disputed sovereignty in the Caribbean Sea.

In addition, there had been a “remarkable” increase in the number of cases on the Court’s docket, he said, which stood at 15. The range of issues taken up was broader than ever, and cases — in various procedural phases — were now being handled simultaneously, shortening the time between written and oral proceedings. The Court was doing its best to respond to the high expectations for the expeditious handling of cases referred to it.

Throughout the morning debate, several speakers said the Court’s geographically diverse caseload spoke to its universal nature and to a growing confidence in its decisions. Its rulings — which often served as precedents — had enriched the codification and consolidation of international law. Canada’s delegate, speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said a wider acceptance of its compulsory jurisdiction had enabled it to fulfil its role more effectively. He, like many others, encouraged States that had not done so to deposit with the Secretary-General their acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction.

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs praised the Court’s steps to better cope with its increased workload, especially by re-examining its working methods, updating its practice directions for use by States and setting a demanding schedule of hearings that allowed it to consider several cases simultaneously.

Focusing on the interplay between the Court and the United Nations, Egypt’s delegate underlined the need to draw on the body’s experience in consolidating legal rules for accepting new members into the Organization, especially as related to the responsibility to protect and the distinction between terrorism and legitimate armed struggle in exercising the right to self-determination.

Addressing the Assembly in the afternoon, Judge Song welcomed Grenada, Tunisia, Philippines, Maldives and Cape Verde for acceding to or ratifying the Rome Statute in the last six months, bringing the number of States Parties to 119. The Court’s seventh annual report, which he presented to the Assembly, detailed developments on the judicial front. The number of situations under investigation had risen from five to seven over the last year.

Among them was the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, where the Court had authorized investigations into alleged crimes committed since 28 November in the wake of contested Presidential elections. Elsewhere, arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and three other alleged commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda were still outstanding. The same was true for Bosco Ntaganda in the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and President Omar al‑Bashir, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, regarding the situation in Darfur. “This is deeply distressing for the victims,” he said, imploring States to bring those persons to justice.

During the year, the Court had sought savings and had simply worked harder, he said, but if expectations continued to grow and resources remained stagnant, the situation would become untenable. The Court’s tenth anniversary on 1 July would usher in a new chapter as its first Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, would hand the baton to his successor. Amid an ever increasing workload, the Court had sought savings and “simply worked harder”. But if the expectations continued to grow while the resources remained the same, the situation could become untenable. He, therefore, appealed to all States to support the Court and its work.

Following his remarks, delegates echoed the call to reinforce collective efforts to deliver justice. The Court, some said, served as both a deterrent for perpetrators and guarantor that people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes would be brought to justice. While the Rome Statute allowed it to assume jurisdiction where national systems failed, States held the primary responsibility for prosecuting offenders. The Director General for Legal Affairs in Finland’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, speaking also for the Nordic countries, called the Court a “necessary tool” in ensuring perpetrators of international crimes were brought to justice.

Efforts towards universal acceptance must be redoubled, said the delegate of the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of the African States Parties to the Statute. The Court was a historic development in the struggle to advance the rule of law. African States represented 28 per cent of the 119 States Parties and all six of the Court’s current cases. Three of those cases were self-referrals, showing the region’s regard for the rule of law.

Not all of the speakers to take the floor were as enamoured of the Courts’ work. “Nothing is more dangerous than politicizing international justice,” said Sudan’s representative, whose Government had long warned against diverting the Court from its intended purpose. Linking a judicial body with a political body — as the Court had been with the Security Council by the Rome Statute — inherently violated the principle of separation of powers.

In that regard, the referral of the Darfur situation to the Court had been a “shameful political decision”, he said, which overlooked the most important parts of international law. The “unjust” referral of the Darfur file to the Court was based on parts of the Rome Statute which Sudan had never ratified. Pointing to the Vienna Convention on International Treaties, he said States that had not acceded to or ratified treaties were not bound by them.

In other business today, the Assembly adopted without a vote the second report of the Credentials Committee, accepting the credentials of all the representatives of the Member States concerned.

Also speaking today on the International Court of Justice was Nigeria’s Minister of Justice.

The representatives of Canada, Peru, Honduras, Senegal, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, Algeria, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines, Chile, Brazil, Georgia and Costa Rica also addressed the Assembly.

Speaking on the report of the International Criminal Court was the Under-Secretary for Legal and Consular Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.

Representatives of the following countries also spoke: Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Egypt, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.

A representative of the European Union also spoke.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 31 October, to debate social development, particularly related to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family, and also the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives (2012).